Fabulous fish for the holidays

The holidays are upon us!

(photo credit: SARIT GOFFEN)
Now that the holidays are upon us, we need to start thinking about all the wonderful delicacies we’ll be preparing for this special time of year. Every Rosh Hashanah table includes a tasty fish dish, and so I’ve prepared here a number of dishes that are wonderful additions to the New Year meal.
One of the most important things to remember when preparing fish dishes is that a fish’s freshness is paramount. Fish come in a variety of types and colors. Some fish are black while others are gray. Sometimes the flesh is white, pink or even dark red.
The following recipes are easy to follow, which is important, so that we don’t end up languishing in the kitchen instead of spending our precious time with our loved ones. I received help this week from Benny Rabah, the owner of the Benny Hadayag restaurant chain, who is a well-known fish expert. Rabah began his career at a small restaurant in the Tel Aviv Port 35 years ago and the rest is history. Benny Hadayag currently consists of four branches: Tel Aviv Port, Kfar Hayam (Olga), the Rishon Lezion boardwalk and the Herzliya Marina.
To this day, Rabah makes it a habit to go fishing in the sea in the early mornings in order to bring in the freshest fish possible for his restaurants. He chose four of his favorite recipes to share with us this week just in time for Rosh Hashanah.
Note: The recipes below are for two to four servings. If you’ve invited more people to join you at your holiday table, you might want to double the recipes.
WHICH FISH should we prepare for Erev Rosh Hashanah?
• Grouper is one of the most popular types of fish to serve for the holidays. It can be cooked on the grill, roasted or even used to make chraimeh.
• Salmon is great eaten fresh or baked and can be made with just about any seasoning you want.
• Mullet can be cooked on the stovetop or be ground up to make fish balls.
• Sea bream is one of the most popular choices of fish at Israeli restaurants. Sea bream is best cooked in the oven.
FISH CAN be raised in a variety of ways:
• Aquaculture fish are raised in cages in the sea and in seawater pools. They are very well taken care of and include sea bream and sea bass.
• Pond fish that are raised in sweet water are not as high quality as sea fish, but they are still very tasty. The most well-known are carp, mullet, trout and tilapia.
• Frozen fish are usually imported in vacuum-sealed containers. The most common are salmon, tuna, halibut and Nile perch.
Level of difficulty: Medium, time: 40 minutes, makes 16 to 18 patties.
Fish cakes:
6 fillets (900 gr.) of corvine or sea bass
1 bunch of coriander
2 small onions
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
½ Tbsp. cumin
½ tsp. salt
¹⁄3 tsp. black pepper
¹⁄3 cup bread crumbs
Eggplant layer:
2 large eggplants
¾ cup raw tehina
¾ cup water
1 heaping tsp. crushed garlic
Juice from 1 lemon
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. lemon zest
Serving suggestion:
½ cup pistachios, roasted and chopped
1 or 2 Tbsp. lemon zest
On a cutting board, chop fish finely and put pieces in a bowl. Chop the coriander and onions and add to the fish. Stir and then add the caraway seeds, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix while adding bread crumbs. Mix well. Take a bit of mixture and form a patty with a 4-cm. diameter and thickness of 2 cm. If the mixture is not thick enough, you can add a little bit more bread crumbs.
Arrange the eggplant on a tray and bake at 250° until soft. (Alternatively, you can cook eggplant over an open flame.) Let cool and then cut the eggplants in half.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and place the fish cakes evenly spaced on tray. Heat the oven to 250°, then lower to 180° and switch to grill mode.
Put the fish cakes into the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the trays and put the fish cakes on top of the eggplant pieces and pour tehina on top. Return to the oven and bake for another five minutes.
Remove and sprinkle with pistachio pieces and lemon zest before serving.
Level of difficulty: Easy, Time: 60 minutes, Makes three servings (two fillets per person)
3 red bell peppers
2 large tomatoes, sliced
3 medium red potatoes, sliced to ½ cm.
1 head of garlic, sliced
Leaves from 1 bunch of coriander (not chopped)
2 spicy red peppers
¾ cup oil
3 Tbsp. quality honey
1 heaping Tbsp. sweet paprika
½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt (or according to taste)
½ lemon without peel, cut into strips
Water to cover
6 fillets sea bass (fresh or frozen) from 3 fish
Place the peppers in a tray and roast until they become charred. Remove the seeds and the white pith of the peppers. Cut peppers into large slices.
Arrange the tomatoes in the bottom of a large, flat pot. Next, arrange the potato slices and then add the garlic, the bell pepper slices and the whole spicy peppers, and half of the coriander.
In a separate bowl, add the oil, honey and paprika, and stir. Add the cumin and salt and mix. Pour over the vegetables in the pot. Put the lemon slices along the edge of the pot.
Pour water in the pot so that it rises 1 cm. above the potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and continue cooking for 20 minutes. Add the sea bass pieces, the rest of the coriander and another ½ cup of water. Cover the pot and let the fish cook for 15 minutes (do not lift lid to check during this time). Remove the lid and cook another four minutes to let water evaporate.
Level of difficulty: Easy, Time: 55 minutes, Makes four servings
4 medium fennel
4 medium kohlrabi
300 gr. cherry tomatoes
5 sprigs of parsley
4 Tbsp. olive oil
¹⁄3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp. salt
4 fresh or frozen (and defrosted) sea bream, cleaned
½ cup pomegranate seeds
Cut the fennel and kohlrabi into thin slices.
With a sharp knife, nick the tomatoes so that their juices can flow.
Arrange the slices of fennel, kohlrabi, tomatoes and parsley on a baking tray.
Make a few slits at an angle in the fish and then lay it on top of vegetables on the tray. Sprinkle with olive oil, lemon juice and salt on top. Cover with foil and bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and take the foil off. Switch the oven to grill and put the tray back in for five minutes.
Take the tray out of the oven and transfer the fish to a large serving platter.
Add the pomegranate seeds to the vegetables and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve fish and vegetables together.
Level of difficulty: Medium-easy, Time: 90 minutes, Makes two servings.
¹⁄3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
½ kg. chickpease, cooked and drained (or from a can)
1 level tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. cumin
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cups vegetable broth (can be bought in specialty shop)
1 level tsp. salt
4 fillets sea bream
Apple and date salad:
1 head of romaine lettuce cut into strips
2 medium red apples, cut into small pieces
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup dates, chopped
¹⁄3 cup walnuts, chopped
Salad dressing:
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp. silan (date syrup)
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large pot and fry onions. Transfer half of the onions to a separate dish and reserve.
Add the chickpeas and fry for two to three minutes. Add the pepper, cumin, garlic and fry for one to two minutes.
Add the vegetable soup and salt and bring to a boil. Add the fish pieces and lower the flame. Cook for an hour until sauce thickens. Turn off the flame and then add the onion you put aside.
To prepare the salad, add the lettuce, apple pieces, pomegranate seeds, dates and walnuts. Mix well. In a separate container, add all the salad dressing ingredients and then pour over salad. Mix.
Serve fish with vegetables and salad.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.